Car buying caught in the net: Google study

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An offline study conducted by Nielsen on behalf of Google India brings to focus the increasing role played by the Internet in influencing purchasing decisions of car buyers in India.

The survey was conducted in the months of January and February, 2012, at car showrooms of India’s leading OEMs namely, Maruti, Tata Motors, Ford, Chevrolet, Hyundai, Honda, and Volkswagen in several metro cities, to gauge the effect of the Internet on the decision making of over 120 million internet users in the country. According to the findings, one in every two car buyers agreed to have researched his intended purchase online before arriving at the dealership. Moreover, out of these netizens, 50 per cent agreed having changed their initial choice after their online research.

The respondents claimed to have used the web to research and compare prices, watch online videos, search for images, carry out competitive analysis, search for dealer contacts, and read expert and user reviews to facilitate their buying decisions. The survey reveals that car buyers spend an average of 9-12 weeks on research, with 90 per cent of the buyers opting for search engines as their first source of information. Besides search engines, buyers also rated OEM’s websites as crucial and trustworthy sources.

Rajan Anandan, Managing Director and VP Sales  Operations Google India

Rajan Anandan, Managing Director and VP Sales Operations Google India

Speaking about the findings of the study, Rajan Anandan, VP & Managing Director of Google India, says “This offline study substantiates the growing number of auto-related searches we’ve seen on Google search in India. Auto is among the fastest growing vertical in terms of query volumes on Google. Most OEMs have not yet tapped the full potential of the digital medium and we hope this study will help them to understand and engage the Indian consumer online.”
Videos also form a significant information source on the web with over 56 per cent of the car buyers agreeing to have watched videos as part of their research, and 48 per cent rating YouTube as an important destination for information gathering. In fact, the respondents rated the web as more important than television or print media for auto related content.

The study’s findings seem to find resonance with the query trends on Google Web Search. With a query volume growth of 70 per cent year-on-year, auto is among the fastest growing verticals on Google. In terms of the query patterns on Google search in India and the query volume growth, SUVs, at 83 per cent, have figured as the fastest growing car segment, followed by premium cars at 82 per cent, sedans at 75 per cent, luxury cars at 74 per cent, and hatchback cars at 53 per cent year-on-year growth. Google has gone a step ahead and listed the top ten most searched new car launches in 2011, based on the search query volumes, as Hyundai Eon, Mahindra XUV 500, Honda Brio, Tata Manza, Maruti Kizashi, Toyota Liva, Hyundai Verna, Nissan Sunny, Skoda Rapid, and Ford Fiesta.

The total sample size of the Google India car buyers’ study was 2,791 respondents, out of which 93 per cent were males, and 75 per cent of the respondents in the age group of 25-44 years, with 75 per cent of the surveyed people belonging to SEC-A. Around 234 dealerships were covered for the research across NCR, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Ahmedabad and Kochi.

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Neeta Nair

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